Energy Policy, Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development: A Study on Indian Perspective

Energy Policy, Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development: A Study on Indian Perspective



Energy constitutes of a world of rapid dynamic arena of underexplored sustainable development. With the emergence of numerous energy technologies worldwide, sustainability of reliable and stable energy sources has come to feature a phase of mere nonexistence. Under such a situation, changing to a different path altogether will be a monumental governance endeavor of incorporating effective global measures. Meeting such challenges will require strengthening of interests, concerns and institutions that would shape the emerging global energy measures. With the deployment of natural sources of energy and its continuity since time immemorial, the economy has fastened to growth and development, an event of its non-application would engender a system of turmoil. The reliance on natural and conventional sources of energy since ages have proven to be more economical and proportionate by the common people. Combustion and non-renewability of conventional sources would only lead to exhaustibility, but also lack of rejuvenation. In meeting such challenge, one possible way of recovering and replenishing the resources while achieving sustainable development, is to promote and introduce newfangled approaches which will not only ensure future sustainability, but also continued replenishment. One such significant and innovative approach is the deployment of nuclear energy source, while helping to mitigate the threat to climate change. Nuclear energy unlike other renewable sources, is a promising technology assuring advancement in the arena of global sustainable development. It promises generating of electricity that is carbon-free and non-location specific, amenable to remarkable scaling up. Nuclear energy is an epitome of modernity and if successfully industrialized, would have tremendous impact on the environment and in balancing sustainable development in near future. Incapacitating other sources of energy will certainly assist in attaining an unresolved and puzzled potential greener advantages of nuclear energy. Thus, the paper attempts to highlight the possible positive advantages in realizing and accomplishing an environment of adequate sustainability while establishing a nuclear energy source capable of replenishing the environment in a best potential manner.
Sustainable development is a goal that transcends national boundaries and generations of people. It has successfully emerged as an inter-connection between environment protection, economic growth and social welfare. With sustainable development reaching a state of major importance around the globe, advocating environment protection and conservation of fullest energy sources for the generations to come, it has truly become a focal point in the lives of increasing population. Access to electricity is directly correlated with the quality of life. Since, electricity constitutes a rich essential source for the mankind to achieve every possible deed in various sectors such as, the agriculture, industry, education and household, denial of it due to shortage or need for sustainability should never be a reason. Nuclear Power plants are known for its carbon free emission, i.e., to say, it does not emit carbon dioxide, thus accounting for most of voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the electric power sector.[1] It is also known for non-production of criteria pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, a precursor of ground-level ozone and also, espouses for setting up of standards to improve quality of air around the globe. Surprisingly, the world is yet to endorse the expansion of nuclear technology for energy, ecology, industry, agriculture and medicine in support of sustainable development.[2] This paper contains the need to extract energy from renewable sources. The development of such an energy infrastructure needs proper planning. Energy system planning and development involves the effective utilization of energy resources and technologies for meeting energy demand in a sustainable manner. Today’s markets for low impact of renewable energy (LIRE) technologies range from specialized niche markets, where the technologies are already cost-effective, to centralized energy production. For centralized energy production, LIRE systems are relatively capital intensive compared to competing conventional technologies. However, operating and maintenance costs are low compared with those for production of conventional fuels. However, the demand
of electricity has always been overstepping the supply. The importance of electricity as a prime mover of growth is very well acknowledged in order to boost the development of power sector. So there is a great need of renewable energy source in Indian power sector to meet future energy demand with consideration of the sustainable development and pollution free environment. For inclusion of renewable energy sources in competitive electricity market India have adopted various supports schemes and policies to promote renewable energy sources in their restructured power sector.
Need of energy policy
[3]A favorable policy framework, motivated players (e.g. energy service companies), and adequate incentive structures are key. Energy policy must create a level playing field to stimulate competition between options of energy supply and of demand-side energy efficiency that provide the same level of energy services. It is not the upfront price, but the total cost over the whole life cycle of an energy systems solution that is decisive for profitable investment decisions.[4]Even if the investment costs of advanced technologies are higher at the beginning, the lifecycle costs (including running costs e.g. for power, maintenance and waste disposal), especially for efficient end-use technologies, are often cheaper compared to conventional technologies when used in an integrated operation. Therefore, the policy and regulatory framework must create supportive incentive structures, raise awareness for lifecycle cost (LCC) analysis and enable good practice projects and innovations to become the market standard. [5]
The next sections of the paper deal with the important aspects those need immediate attention to foster use of LIRE technologies so as to achieve sustainable energy system.
 Energy System Planning For India
 ENPEP-BALANCE has been chosen for carrying out the current study. The interactive network designing features of BALANCE were used to build the integrated power and energy network for India.[6]The market-sharing algorithm of BALANCE allows the simulation of market operations with multiple decision end makers, as opposed to least-cost optimization approaches that simulate a single decision maker. BALANCE has the flexibility to utilize forecasts from other sources. In this study future energy demand obtained from MAED and elasticity projections for energy and electricity were used in BALANCE.
 Policy Framework for Promotion of Renewables in India
The policy framework is the key to the success of renewable energy in any country. Policies aim at overall development and promotion of renewable energy technologies (RETs) and its applications. Policy initiatives encourage private sector to take part in renewable business as per provision of fiscal and financial incentives for a wide range of renewable energy (RE) programs. Policies are largely financial, fiscal incentives or special directives aimed to encourage or enforced utilities to buy RE power, promoter companies to set up RE projects, equipment companies to manufacture RE equipment or private and government entities to undertake R&D relating to RE. In India, policy initiatives encourage domestic private investments with a provision of fiscal and financial incentives such as tax holidays, accelerated depreciation and duty rebates. At the central level, policy measures are administered through the Ministry of New and Renewable Sources (MNRE). The state governments contribute by making available infrastructural facilities for wheeling of power and buying power from renewable units. [7]A comprehensive RE Policy for all-round development of the sector, encompassing all the key aspects, has been formulated by MNRE. The broad objectives envisaged in the draft policy are as meeting the minimum energy needs through RE, Providing decentralized energy supply in agriculture, industry, commercial and household sectors in rural and urban areas, and providing grid quality power. The policies targeting of 10% of additional grid power Generation capacity to come from RE by 2012.
Challenges and Constraints
 The 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), aims to add over 78,500 MW of new capacity to achieve the Indian Government’s ambitious mission of „Power for All by 2012‟. To meet its large and growing power needs, there are many constraints and key imperatives are required.
 A. Limited fuel reserve In the Indian Power sector, 64.6% of electricity production is from thermal power stations. The main fuel used is coal. Though India has at least 84,396 million tons of proven recoverable coal reserves (at the end of 2003), amounting to almost 8.6% of the world reserves, they will however last for about 230 years only at the current Reserve to Production (R/P) ratio.
B. Higher fuel transportation cost India is a wide spread country and the coal mines are scattered. Though roads and rails connect all parts of the country, the conditions of the roads and trails are not ideally suited for quick and safe transportation of coal to the demanded sites. So the transportation of coal to the power stations is an expensive and time-consuming task. As the transportation cost forms a major portion of the fuel cost, the energy production cost increases, which in turn affects the industrial growth of the country.
C. Aging Power Plants Since most of the power plants have been installed immediately after the independence, they have become old and inefficient. This is the main reason for low growth rate in electricity generation during the recent years. Old and inefficient plants need to be replaced or renovated and modernized to achieve the electricity production target.
D. Rationalization of Power Tariff Prices of electricity and some of the other energy sources are highly subsidized thereby promoting inefficient end-use and sometimes even inefficient energy choices. For example, power, kerosene and domestic gas are highly subsidized. All subsidies on fossil fuels should be phased out.
Sustainable Development in the Developing Era
Sustainable development is “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.[8] It comprises two key concepts:
1.     The concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given, and
2.     The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.
The entire concept of Sustainable development is to essentially, satisfy the needs and aspirations of the present as well as future generations in order to ensure a standard way of living is adopted. The essential needs of vast number of people in developing countries for food, clothing, shelter, electricity, job opportunities etc are not met and their aspiration for an improved quality of life is consequently denied. Thus, the satisfaction of human needs and aspirations in the developing era, is the sole objective of the concept sustainable development that requires a closer analysis.. Energy consumption has always been a contentious idea amongst the poor and the underprivileged. These are the ones who are often deprived of the major source of living, due to inadequate and lack of proper enforceability by the government in providing the same. This problem is highly sidelined by the authoritative government of the developing c
ountries, which in turn results in a lower standard of living and substandard development. The imbalance caused due to global and national patterns of consumption and production is a question of great concern and thus, calls for a reform. The optimum utilization of minimum resources by the maximum number of people should be the area of concern, in conformity with the sustainable development.
Nuclear energy has been given importance with the conclusion of the Indo–U.S. Civilian Nuclear Agreement. The Agreement has also enabled India to envision a possible and realistic future of nuclear energy as it can now trade in civilian nuclear energy with various Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) countries. The deal has made it possible for India to sign civilian nuclear agreements with countries like France, Russia and Canada. As per the Department of Atomic Energy, India plans to increase its nuclear energy production 1 to 20,000 MWe by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032. [9]
Nuclear Energy and its Transformation for Sustainable Development
The sun is the original source of energy on our planet. The total energy received by the earth’s surface from the sun is enormous and much more than required by human beings. However, this source of energy has now been transformed towards a much more advanced and progressive sources of energy. Amongst these sources, nuclear energy appears to be the most promising and advanced source of energy ever witnessed by the countries. There are over 400 nuclear power plants operating in 31 countries, representing about 350 GW(e) of capacity.[10] The nuclear industry represents a large asset of several forms of capital.
The emergence of nuclear power into the electricity market occurred during the early years of 1950’s, wherein the peaceful use of the atom became a symbol of progress to benefit humanity. In the 1960’s, it achieved the status of commercially viable energy source. Energy conservation measures were intensified during the 1970’s due to a boost on the oil price stocks, consequently resulting in the decrease of energy and electricity demand growth rates especially in the highly industrialized countries. The environmentalist shifted their attention towards the waste issue as a target to be attacked, particularly in the highly industrialized countries. Nuclear power has now achieved the status of a mature technology and a viable option for the generation of electricity. However, electricity generation is not the only use of nuclear energy; it can also be used for seawater desalination, industrial processes, district heating purposes, in warships etc. Economic efficiency or economic progress is one component of sustainable development. The program on nuclear energy in India is mainly divided into 3 stages in which the first stage involves building pressurized heavy water reactors and using natural uranium. The second stage includes setting up “Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. In order to multiply the fissile material inventory, Fast Breeder Reactors are necessary for our (Indian) 9 program. The third stage will be based on the thorium-uranium-233 cycle…”[11]
The inclusion of nuclear energy into electricity market will increase the technical and fuel diversity, resulting in an increase in competition amongst various other alternatives to energy sources. It has come to the notice that the total levelized cost of generating electricity with new nuclear units in the coming years would range between 2.5 and 6 cents per kWh at a 5% discount rate and between 4 and 8 cents per kWh at 10% discount rates.[12] Apart from all of this, what essentially matters is the efficiency of resource to the energy sector. Nuclear power plants of the present generation operate on a very high energy density extracting more than 10,000 times energy per unit mass from uranium, compared to other fossil fuels or renewable fuels. Uranium reserves, proven to be more economically exploitable represents nearly 40years of present consumption.[13]
 The fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, oil etc. are becoming scarce and limited due to over exploitation, in the name of environmental planning and economic progress. Therefore, for sustainable development, it is necessary to adopt non-conventional sources of energy, in order to have the long- term sustainability. Since, energy is directly connected to the social issues which affect sustainable development such as, poverty, income levels, population growth, climate change and environmental quality, lack of adequate attention to the importance of energy would result in the collapse of global social, economic and environmental goals of sustainability. The key challenge in realizing these targets is to overcome the ineffectiveness and inconsistencies in the way of sustainable development and to develop a political will to protect the people and natural resources.
Legal Framework Governing Nuclear Energy in other Countries
From the outset of preparatory work for any activities under the nuclear law, it may be useful for a nation to take cognizance and pay heed to other countries legal framework and regulatory provisions.
The nuclear power in the U.S. began to develop as a government program in 1945. Since 1950’s, the generation of electricity from nuclear power was opened up to the private industries. The government in U.S. is far more involved with private participation and commercial nuclear power than any other industry. The US government appears to be the main source of funding for advanced reactors and fuel cycle research. State and local governments coordinate well with the US government for having a major impact on the regulatory framework on nuclear power industry. Deregulation of electricity prices in some states in the 1990’s, has proven to have more concentration of nuclear power production. However, until 1974, regulation of nuclear energy was under the authority of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which also had the responsibility of regulating civilian use of nuclear power. However, AEC was abolished in 1974 and this task of theirs was shifted towards the newly created Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and they were empowered to carry on the promotional activities. They are an independent government agency, empowered to regulate all aspects of the nuclear industry in the U.S. Their tasks include, regulation of fuel cycle facilities, reactors, storage, transportation and disposal of spent fuel in the U.S. Apart from these, they are responsible in licensing of operating nuclear plants and of the proposed ones.
The Energy Policy Act, 2005 was adopted by both the houses of the US parliament to modernize and validate the rules governing nuclear power production. It included incentives for the domestic nuclear power industry by rationalizing tax and providing federal loan guarantees for nuclear reactors and other emission- free technologies. This Act was specifically related to the governing of nuclear power production as a whole, encompassing other forms of technology. Surprisingly, what remained unanswered was the rules and guidelines governing management and disposal of spent fuel and other nuclear wastes.  This was resolved by constituting a 15member body named ‘Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC)’ in February 2010, to function and carry out the activities of management of used fuel and to direct disposal techniques[14]. The report submitted by the commission proposed recommendations on various disposal methods including, the commonest method of recycling and reprocessing, consideration for at least one consolidated storage facility, transportation facilities of the high-level or large scale spent nuclear fuel and wastes from current storage sites to those facilities.  Thus, this precisely is the legal framework and regulatory provisions governing nuclear energy in the U.S.
Legal Framework Governing Nuclear Energy in India
All human activities involve risks and the degree of risk varies from one activity to another. The main aim and purpose of law is to ensure that a third party does not suffer due to no fault of his own but due to acts committed by some other. The person committing the mistake is expected to make good the losses caused. The existing body of law governing this area lays down broad framework for implementation. Details are to be outlined by domestic laws. The domestic legal regime is the one which takes the first call on the issue as the so called ‘incident’ or ‘damage’ actually occurs there. A survey of such existing liability regimes under international law, specifically under International Environmental Law shows that they are essentially sector- specific and are loosely connected. Most importantly, the role of international law in regulating or implementing a liability regime is limited as the actual implementation is a domestic concern.[15]
The law that governs nuclear energy for licensing installations and activities in relation to radiation sources is unified by the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (AEA) and by the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules 2004.[16]Section 3 of the AEA lays “to produce, develop, use and dispose of atomic energy” and is restricted to the Government or to a Corporation of Government. However, these activities can be pursued only with the written consent by the regulatory body so appointed by the government termed as the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.[17]The Board derives this mandate from Rule 33 of the Rule 2004 and by a Constitution Order authorizing them to maintain the nuclear safety. The overall policy objectives and initiatives for radiation and industrial safety is embedded in various Acts such as the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004, the Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of Radioactive Wastes) Rules, 1987, the Atomic Energy (Factories), Rules, 1996, and AERB’s Safety Codes, Standards and the Code of Ethics issued by AERB. Furthermore, the Central Government has promulgated these above Acts in order to formulate the policy and control activities for ensuring safety relating to the use of atomic energy. Besides these legal frameworks governing the activities from the use of atomic energy, a remarkable initiative taken by the Government of India to ensure safety, health and environment at work place, being of paramount importance and thus not neglected is by issuing the “National Policy on safety, health and environment at work place” by the Ministry of Labor and Employment. Hence, the legal framework governing nuclear energy in India is found to be beneficial and positive as it inscribes scope from various other domains, for having an impact on the growth and development of the nuclear power industry.
As more and more countries are heading towards the path of sustainable development, generation of electricity at low and at reasonable technology equipped must be the goal. As nuclear power plants are found to be socially and economically reliable form of energy source, mainly to generate electricity at a larger scale, there are still many countries who have not yet subscribed to this form of energy and has been accused of disposing enormous units of wastes from cheap and less effective sources. Such countries must shift their focus towards expanding their nuclear trade footprint and ensuring high accountability regime is strengthened with newly proposed legal and extra- legal instruments. Also, countries who are repeatedly failing to adopt and enforce a nuclear power industry, must pay heed and inculcate principles, guidelines and rules that govern the developed or developing nations with respect to the nuclear power production. Better inter-state coordination, robust domestic legislations governing nuclear power and stronger diplomatic linkages are necessary to control the expansion of nuclear industry. It is not enough if a nation acknowledges the positive and benefits of an energy source, but must also look into the impacts it imposes on the environment and the people ruling the nation. Apart from the number of advantages it carries within itself, what is of utmost importance is to make such efforts available and accessible by each and every one residing in every corner of the world. Only by initiating such efforts, a nation in its entirety can grow with all its potentiality and can progress without any hinder to its development. This could be achieved by strengthening existing laws with increased clarity and regulation and eliminating loopholes for an effective administration and enforcement of nuclear industry. Lastly as technology advances, Additional Protocol might sweep in as a better safeguard and this practice would quickly be implemented across the entire nuclear fuel cycle for increased supervision.


[1] Nuclear Energy in a Sustainable Development Perspective,
[3]  P.K.Katti, M. K. Khedka, “Fostering the use of low impact renewable energy technologies for sustainable power supply Co-Gen 2007,” organised by Institution of Engineers (India) Nagpur centre Maharashtra held during 13-14-April 2017.
[4] Andrew Pape-Salmon, Jonathan Dogterom, Carissa Wieler, Mark Anielski, “Low-Impact Renewable Energy Policy in Canada: Strengths, Gaps and a Path Forward,” final report Prepared by: Pembina Institute -Canada pp: 1-78, February, 2018.
[5] Curtis Johnston: “Opportunities and Challenges for Renewable Energy Development in British Columbia: Policy Instruments to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Provincial Electricity Sector Honors’ Thesis: Final Report.”
[6] Sustainable Energy Future by AD2030 – India Case Study.
[7] Government of India · National Knowledge Commission Science and Environment, “Policies for renewable energies/biomass in India”.
[8] World Commission on Environment and Development(WCED) in its report -Brundtland Report
[9] “A strategy for the Growth of Electrical Energy in India.” DAE.
[10] Ibid, 2
[11] Kakodkar, Anil. 4 – 6 September 2002. “Nuclear Power in India: An Inevitable Option for Sustainable Development for a Sixth of Humanity.” World Nuclear Association, Annual Symposium. pg. 3
[12]OECD/NEA-IEA (Nuclear Energy Agency – International Energy Agency), (1998), Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: Update 1998, OECD, Paris, France.
8 NEA (OECD Nuclear Energy Agency) and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), (2000), Uranium 1999 – Uranium Resources, Production and Demand, OECD, Paris, France.
[14] Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House (29 January 2010). See also Secretary Chu Announces Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, U.S. Department of Energy, Press Release (29 January 2010)
[15] Vienna and Paris conventions.
[16] Full text of the Atomic Energy Act is available at last accessed on November 18, 2015.
[17] Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) Mission Report to India By IAEA, Department of Nuclear Safety and Security AERB, IAEA-NS-IRRS-2015/04 p. 39

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